POST 5: Approaches to design for change, design-led ethnography


  • What does feminism mean to you and how does it make you feel?
  • Have you experienced gender-based oppression in your lifetime?
  •  Do you believe that education is vital to the improvement and development of female empowerment and gender equality?
  • Do you believe that students in schools and universities need to be educated on sexism and gender equality? 
  • Do you believe that the culture in schools and universities (particularly colleges) fuel gender inequality?
  • What makes you feel empowered?

After conducting an interview with an individual that did not have an in-depth understanding of the issues that surround gender inequality and female empowerment I was able to gain valuable insights. The interviewee provided me with transformative ideas that help shape and alter my personal concept of feminism. The interviewee said that his experience of feminism is mainly shaped by what he views on the Internet. The Internet provides a platform for anonymity and allows individuals to discuss their personal opinions publicly and this, in terms of feminism, may come across quite aggressive and negative. Despite the interviewee’s online experiences he states, “personally I see myself as an equalist and that can be seen as a definition for feminism so yeah, I guess I am a feminist.” Establishing this notion of ill-informed anonymous online sharing one can recognise the ways in which feminism can be misunderstood. From this, the interviewee and I discussed how education is vital to the improvement and development of equality and female empowerment. Interestingly, the interviewee felt that because of his upbringing and morals education on sexism and gender equality was “kind of irrelevant”. To which he went on to explain, “I guess for me its just common sense, but then there are people that just don’t understand.” This viewpoint intrigued me because the interviewee, like most individuals, would have this ‘common sense’ response. However, not all individuals would have the same upbringing and morals and what they deem to be acceptable may actually be considered bigoted. The interview highlighted two main issues surrounding gender equality and female empowerment. The first being that within an online context feminism is largely misunderstood, leading to aggression and revulsion of the feminist movement. While also identifying that the education of sexism within contemporary society is more than just common sense, as different individuals have different ideas of what language is deemed acceptable.



Considering what was discovered in the interview I decided to present my interviewee with a social media design probe. I asked the interviewee to identify 5 pieces of content that involved any form of gender bias or sexism, whether it is language or imagery. The screenshots provided a number of incidents revolving around ill informed judgements, as well as derogatory and misogynistic language. However, I was surprised and satisfied by Figure 2, as it demonstrated a teenager retaliating against another mans sexist slur. This design probe identified a lack of caution taken when posting content online, thus communicating that a sense of anonymity encourages self expression and freedom of speech.

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Figure 1: Video encouraging violence against women


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Figure 2: Post about female Olympic volleyball players


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Figure 3: Content posted via Men’s Humour Facebook page


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Figure 4: Post about sex being better when intoxicated


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Figure 5: Women Against Feminism



Through the process of design-led ethnography I was able to discover a pattern displayed on social media relating to contemporary sexism. Majority posting sexist or misogynistic content are males; misogynistic language is aggravated by content of revealing women; higher trafficked posts contain more controversial subject matter and comments. Considering the success and failures, if i was to undertake the tasks again I would ask my interviewee questions that are more specific to their gender and social orientation. By skewing my questions toward the interviewee’s interests I would gain more passionate and constructive answers.


5 point summary:

  • Education is vital to the improvement and development of equality and female empowerment
  • Despite social class, values/morals or religion, every one needs to be educated on sexism and gender equality
  • The term ‘feminism’ is largely misunderstood within social media platforms
  • Most misogynistic and sexist language on social media is directed towards women in underwear/swimwear or a lack of clothing
  • The Internet provides a platform for self expression, allowing individuals to discuss their personal bias opinions publicly



Written by Zara Hartwig




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